IBS - Does not discriminate

One thing is certain, with IBS you are not alone. IBS is surprisingly common throughout the world and appears to be becoming more common. In developed countries it may affect up to 1 in 5 adults - an average figure based on a number of surveys is approximately 1 in 10 people (11%). IBS affects between 25 and 55 million people in the United States and results in 2.5 to 3.5 million yearly visits to physicians. Approximately 20 to 40 percent of all visits to gastroenterologists are due to IBS symptoms.

IBS does not discriminate either, IBS symptoms affects men and women of all ages and of all races. The prevalence of IBS in the general population of Western countries varies from 6 to 22%. IBS affects 14-24% of women and 5-19% of men. The prevalence is similar in Caucasians and African Americans, but appears to be lower in Hispanics. Although several studies have reported a lower prevalence of IBS among older people, the present studies do not allow to definitely conclude whether or not an age disparity exists in IBS. In non-Western countries such as Japan, China, India, and Africa, IBS also appears to be very common.

The following is taken from ‘World Gastroenterology Organisation Global Guideline Irritable bowel syndrome: a global perspective’  A paper written on 2009 by a group of the worlds most respected Gastroenterologists.   A link to the full report can be found at the bottom of the page.  It makes for very interesting reading, in particular the global spread and economic differences between diets show that diet is not always the driving factor:

World Gastroenterology Organisation Global Guideline Irritable bowel syndrome: a global perspective

The global picture of IBS prevalence is far from complete with no data available from several regions. In addition, comparisons of data from different regions are often problematic due to the use of different diagnostic criteria (in general, the“looser” the criteria, the higher the prevalence), as well as the influence of other factors such as population selection, inclusion or exclusion of comorbid disorders (e.g., anxiety), access to health care, and cultural influences.

In Mexico, for example, the prevalence of IBS in the community using the Rome II criteria was 16%, but the figure increased to 35% among hospital patients using the same criteria. What is remarkable is that the available data suggest the prevalence is quite similar across many countries, despite substantial lifestyle differences.

The prevalence of IBS in Europe and North America is estimated to be 10–15%. In Sweden, the most commonly cited figure is 13.5%. The prevalence of IBS is increasing in countries in the Asia–Pacific region, particularly in countries with developing economies. Estimates of the prevalence of IBS (using the Rome II diagnostic criteria) vary widely in the Asia–Pacific region. Studies from India show that the Rome I criteria for IBS identify more patients than the Rome II criteria.

Reported prevalences include 0.82% in © World Gastroenterology Organization, 2009 WGO Practice Guideline Irritable bowel syndrome 4 Beijing, 5.7% in southern China, 6.6% in Hong Kong, 8.6% in Singapore, 14% in Pakistan, and 22.1% in Taiwan.

A study in China found that the prevalence of IBS as defined by the Rome III criteria in outpatient clinics was 15.9%. Generally, data from South America are scarce; in Uruguay, for example, there is only one study, and the overall prevalence was 10.9% (14.8% in women and5.4% in men); 58% with IBS-C and 17% with IBS-D. In 72% of the cases, the age of onset was < 45 years.

Data from Africa are even more scanty. A study in a Nigerian student population based on the Rome II criteria found a 26.1% prevalence. A study among outpatients in the same country, based on the same criteria, reported a 33% prevalence. Other observations on IBS epidemiology

IBS mainly occurs between the ages of 15 and 65.

• The first presentation of patients to a physician is usually in the 30–50-year-old age group.

• In some cases, symptoms may date back to childhood.

• The prevalence is greater in women—although this result is not reproduced in

India, for example.

• There is a decrease in reporting frequency among older individuals.

• The estimated prevalence of IBS in children is similar to that in adults.

• Typical IBS symptoms are common in “healthy” population samples.


This paper dates from 2009, and while we find it very interesting the only concern, is that in many ways we are no further forward.  FODMAPs and Fecal transplants have been the only significant advance since this time and given the evidence from this document, it is surprising that with so many sufferers, so little is still known.

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McFarland LV. State-of-the-art of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease research in 2008. World J Gastroenterol. 2008;14(17):2625-9. Hungin APS, Whorwell PJ, Tack J, Mearin F. The prevalence, patterns and impact of irritable bowel syndrome: an international survey of 40 000 subjects. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2003; 17(5):643-50.

The global nature of  IBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome


IBS - Global Treatments IBS - A Global Problem